UseNet Service Loses Copyright Infringement Case

While a few NZB sites have been targeted before, this may be the first time a service that offers UseNet access has been dealt with a blow. In court, has lost their case against the RIAA. The case has been going on since 2007.

“While others claim to have huge download limits,” says, “we deliver unheard of download limits and incredible access to two huge geographically diverse server farms. But huge download limits are of no use if you can not get the material you are searching for.”

Things might change after this legal blow.

“This action arises out of allegations of widespread infringement of copyrights in sound
recordings owned by Plaintiffs…”the decision states (source contains built-in-browser version), “copies of which are available for download by accessing a network of computers called the USENET through services provided by Defendants, Inc.”

The court document continues, “Defendants’ cross-motion for summary judgment argues that they are entitled to the safe harbor protections of § 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). All parties filed numerous additional motions to exclude certain testimony, as well as voluminous evidentiary objections. Plaintiffs opine that their motion for terminating sanctions alleges discovery abuse sufficient to require that I strike the Defendants’ answer and enter a default judgment in their favor (“Terminating Sanctions Motion”). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs’ Terminating Sanctions Motion is granted to the extent discussed in this opinion, though not in its entirety; Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment is granted with respect to all claims; and Defendants’ motion”

More excerpts:

Copyright infringement via services:

There can be no dispute that Defendants’ services were used overwhelmingly for copyright infringement. Indeed, Plaintiffs’ expert has testified that, based on a statistical analysis, over 94% of all content files offered in music-related binary newsgroups previously carried by Defendant UCI were found to be infringing or highly likely to be infringing.

Moreover, not only is there rampant copyright infringement of musical works occurring on Defendants’ service in general, but there is direct undisputed evidence that Plaintiffs’ copyrighted sound recordings have been distributed and downloaded in violation of their copyrights.5 First, Plaintiffs’ evidence shows that both Plaintiffs’ forensic investigators and Defendants’ own former employees confirmed downloads of digital music files of Plaintiffs’ sound recordings from Defendants’ service.

Selling a service for the purpose of copyright infringement (A mistake made by Grokster):

The record in this case is replete with instances of Defendants and their employees specifically engendering copyright infringement and targeting infringement-minded users to become subscribers of Defendants’ service. First, Defendants’ own former employees have testified that their marketing department specifically targeted young people familiar with other file-sharing programs and suggested they try Defendants’ services “as a safe alternative to peer-to-peer file sharing programs that were getting shut down” due to copyright infringement lawsuits and resulting injunctions.

Wiping hard drives:

Based on the revelation of this new evidence, Plaintiffs promptly filed a motion to compel
production of responsive documents stored on Defendants’ employee hard drives, and requested an extension of the discovery period. A hearing was held before Magistrate Judge Katz on October 27, 2008 to address Plaintiffs’ motion and Defendants’ failure to produce discovery. At this hearing, Defendants’ counsel acknowledged for the first time that he was in possession of seven computer hard drives that had belonged to Defendants’ employees (the “Seven Hard Drives”). October 27, 2008 Hearing Transcript (“Oct. Tr.”) at 13:9-22. Initially, Defendants conceded that four of the Seven Hard Drives had had their contents deleted or “wiped” and suggested they would produce documents from the remaining three drives.

The court concluded that appropriate damage awards would be determined by Magistrate Judge Katz.

This default judgement could easily be seen as a major blow to UseNet service providers. For years, it was indeed common knowledge amongst those in the know that UseNet is practically immune from trouble. The defendants argued that they were under the safe harbour provisions of the DMCA, but the court didn’t buy it.

Because of all this, the once seemingly invulnerable service of UseNet, at least for inside the United States, isn’t so invulnerable anymore. Given that so few actions against UseNet have been taken, many might still see UseNet as a safe alternative compared to other alternatives, but for UseNet services in the United States, this case could spell trouble for the rest of the existing services on US soil.

Still, there’s been no known case, at least to our knowledge, that a UseNet user was ever busted for copyright infringement using UseNet, but it might be a little more tricky to connect to UseNet if other US based UseNet services start folding in a similar fashion to when an NZB site was targeted by the MPAA (many others voluntarily shuttered in response).

Regardless of what happens in the long run, this could be seen as the biggest blow to the UseNet network – legally speaking – to date.

[Hat tip: Ray Beckerman]

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Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson is perhaps one of the more well-known file-sharing and technology news writers around. A journalist in the field since 2005, his work has had semi-regular appearances on social news websites and even occasional appearances on major news outlets as well. Drew founded <a href=""></a> and still contributes to ZeroPaid.

mal greenborg
mal greenborg

If usenet hadn't turned into a cesspit of spam and file sharing, and if my ISP still gave me nntp access, I'd care. But 99% of usenet turned to complete spuzz about five years ago. breeze55, most indie labels are members of the RIAA.


@^ "Many independent labels have been wrongly listed as members of the RIAA on the RIAA's own website, and have fought for many years to have them removed from the site...."


I don't but ANY CD's anymore if they are not on an independent label... so please curl up and die RIAA like the obsolete dinosaur you are.


Every time I see the letters RIAA in the news, I buy one less CD.

Yoshi * Edit post * Report this post * Reply with quote Re: RIAA triumphs in Usenet copyright case Postby Overnet User » Wed Jul 01, 2009 12:06 am # vampirescu October 18th, 2007 | 02:17 First the RIAA has NOT sued over 20,000 people in the past 4 years, well they tell you to pay $ ?000 or they will sue. deserves this for there advertising, they advertise in a way that this is the best way to get pirated software. is the complete text is not usenet or the whole. They are a provider. They advertised their service as anonymous and the best way to get pirated software. The cartels seen this as an easy target and by the time the verdict would be out, people would forget. The web probably has pictures of their advertisement out there somewhere because I remember people saying take screenshots and stuff before they change it. Well it was changed when the cartels sued This should not scare other usenet providers as long as they do not advertise that their service is the best way to get pirated materials and then charge money to use it. DejaVu October 18th, 2007 | 20:58 is a company name, a logo, a slogan or probably a very expensive domain name at best. USENET is USEr NETwork, not one specific thing, not thousands, more like a few million servers world wide by now! The RIAA as an association couldnt close THE USENET down by themselves unless the internet was practically pulled offline the world over! NEWSGROUPS back in the day was email/chat/communication. The Internet today is the evolution of USENET -> If USENET is pulled from the internet, its users would plumet, BIG! Last edited by Overnet User on Wed Jul 01, 2009 10:45 am, edited 1 time in total.


So no one there hit the nail on the head. A few close ones though. The point I see in all of this is the fact that the RIAA now has a precedent to work with in going after other UseNet providers on US soil. Once the US providers are knocked out, they'll take their case worldwide and shut down as many providers as possible. Given that it's much harder to keep providers decentralized on a provider-to-provider basis, it'll be easier for the industry to shut them down. The only uphill battle for the copyright industry is the fact that the providers make millions and can defend themselves - arguably one of the biggest reasons why it's taken so long for any of them to land in legal hot water.